Apollonius of Tyana
by Bette Stockbauer
"The whole earth is mine, and it is given me to travel through it."With these words, Apollonius of Tyana sounded a keynote of his life, for he was known as one of the greatest travelers of antiquity. He lived in the days when the Roman Empire covered thousands of square miles, and the Mediterranean allowed free access to its major population centers. He made full use of the great sea, and the span of his life recorded his presence on all its shores, from Egypt to Spain, from North Africa to the lands and islands surrounding his beloved Greece. He was the first of his countrymen to visit India, at that time a hazardous and unmapped land. Who was Apollonius, how did he live, and what was the purpose of his constant movement?
He was born of a wealthy family in Tyana, a city of Cappadocia (part of what is now Turkey). Legend says that great signs attended his birth, and that he was an incarnation of the Egyptian God Proteus. As a child he was remarkable for his powerful memory and great beauty. At 14 he was sent south to Tarsus to complete his studies, but grew unhappy in what he considered frivolous surroundings and moved to Aegae in Greece.
Here he found the teachings of the Greek philosopher Pythagoras, whose code of conduct prescribed obedience to higher laws, silence, moderation in diet, and simplicity in dress and possessions. Pythagoras taught the doctrines of immortality and reincarnation, and advised the pursuit of self-knowledge. The proper use of philosophy, he said, was to study the inner nature of man -- one who knew himself could then know the universe. At 16 Apollonius submitted himself to the Pythagorean principles. He was to follow them for the rest of his life.
Renouncing the use of animal flesh, he ate only those foods grown from the earth, clad himself in linen garments, and walked barefoot or in shoes made of tree bark. He abstained from wine and wore his hair long. For five years he took a vow of silence and spoke not a word, though often faced with ridicule and derision.
In Aegae he lived at the temple of Aesculapius, the Greek God of Medicine. These 'hospitals' were scattered throughout the land. The doctors were the priests of the temple. The psychic and spiritual sciences were used to heal the patients who came to consult the Gods. In such surroundings Apollonius soon surpassed his teachers, who marveled at his pious life and brilliant mind. Here began his reputation as a miracle worker, for all the townspeople knew of the young ascetic's innate capacity for healing. At 20 he inherited a considerable fortune. He kept a pittance for himself and gave the rest away. From this time he never accepted money, though great sums were offered by many admirers. Freed from worldly attachments, he began his travels.
Teachings and travels
The Roman Empire was at the zenith of its power but a restlessness pervaded its lands. Assassination was common. Emperor followed Emperor in quick succession, for the power of the office also brought the riches of the kingdom and there were many who coveted both. The temples of the land were noted more for adornment than for devotion. Blood sacrifice was common, and the rituals of initiation had been corrupted to become empty rites of prestige.
The spirit of Christianity was embryonic. So little was Christianity known that many historians of the period fail to mention it at all. Yet many sought a truth more profound than that offered by the dominant culture. Small groups of people -- the Therapeuts, the Gymnosophists, the Essenes -- began to establish religious communities in out-of-the-way places such as deserts and forests. There they lived simple lives that revolved around the love of truth. Ancient forms of worship were followed in their original purity. Temperance and mutual regard were the rule of conduct.
To these groups Apollonius offered guidance and support. He joined in their ceremony and instructed the priests in the ways of initiation. In the large cities with their public temples, his intent was to purify the liturgy and reconsecrate the inner sanctuaries, returning the sacred sites to the spiritual discipline of their ancient traditions.
Wherever he went, he held to a regular division of the day. Mornings were spent in religious exercises and in teaching the priests and initiates the Sacred Mysteries. In the afternoon he walked among the people, healing their illnesses and instructing them in ethics and practical life. Three times a day he meditated to the Sun or to the "Lord of the World".
Damis, the disciple
In the city of Nineveh he met Damis, who became his constant companion and loyal disciple. The core of our knowledge of Apollonius comes from the faithful notebooks Damis kept of their travels. Damis never seemed to comprehend the deeper mysteries that Apollonius taught and did not attend the secret councils of the initiates. He humbly accepted his place, for he loved Apollonius and saw in him a divine being, with powers marvelous to behold. By nature he was timid, ever fearful for himself and for his Master, yet was so attached that he followed when other disciples fled. So he became a trusted servant with the joyful words: "Let us go together. Thou shalt follow God, and I thee."
These words were prophetic, for soon afterwards Apollonius determined to visit India. All of his disciples, save Damis, abandoned him, but he calmly held his intent, saying: "I must go whithersoever wisdom and my inner self may lead me. The Gods are my advisers and I can but rely on their counsels."
In those days India was considered an exotic and mysterious land. Tales were told of its inhabitants protecting their cities by bolts of lightning rather than combat. Its snow-clad mountains contained species of plants and animals elsewhere unknown. Bands of thieves roamed its vast plains, but its rulers were often holy men and sages. Damis, Apollonius, and their well-chosen guides departed to find the men the Tyanean would later describe in these words: "I saw men dwelling on the earth and yet not on it, defended on all sides, yet without defense, possessing nothing, yet having everything."
They visited the Magi, the Wise Men of Babylon, then traveled on to the priest-king Phraotes. This humble ruler who "loved peace above all things," greeted Apollonius with the words: "I look on you as superior in virtue, for of all gifts a prince can possess, I deem wisdom the brightest." Discussions of philosophy filled their days. When they parted, Phraotes gave him a troop of milk-white camels for the journey and a note to the King Iarchos.
When the band arrived at the palace of Iarchos, the ruler already knew of the letter of Phraotes, and the details of Apollonius' life. He told the party that most mortals greet a newcomer by asking questions about his life, but the priests of India greet him instead by telling him about his life. The notebooks of Damis suggest the psychic and spiritual powers of the sages -- they could tell the past and future, see events at a distance, and read the past lives of men.
Beyond this we know little of what they taught Apollonius, who was always silent in such matters. But a letter written to his hosts suggests the journey's effect: "I came to you by land and ye have given me the sea; nay, rather, by sharing with me your wisdom ye have given me power to travel through heaven. These things will I bring back to the mind of the Greeks, and I will hold converse with you as though ye were present."
Miracles and wonders
When he returned to his homeland, a new power pervaded his every deed. Word of his miracles, his brilliance, and his piety spread throughout the land. From town to town he taught from the steps of the temples. He urged the people to turn from dissipation and the cruel sports of the day, and spend their time instead in study and philosophy. He spoke of the community of goods, and the necessity of sharing with the needy. He decried the popular notion that ridiculed generosity toward the poor saying: "What else, then, have we to do, but shut ourselves up at home, like birds, to be fattened for use, and indulge our appetites in darkness till we burst with fat?"
For the poor and needy, for the sad of heart and ill of body he always had a word of compassion. Many he healed with the touch of his hands. He could gaze into a troubled soul, see its past, and offer direction. In Rome he brought to life a young girl on her way to burial. He cast out demons and could see across time and space. At Ephesus he warned the citizens of a coming plague and later rid the area of the plague itself. He knew of the burning of a temple in Rome and the assassination of the Emperor Domitian at the moment they occurred, though he was in a distant place. Great crowds would gather to hear the words of this man who could speak to the soul in a time when such voices were few.
Apollonius was equally at home in the streets of the cities and the palaces of its rulers. Before his ascent to the throne, the Emperor Vespasian received his advice in long discussions on the philosophy of ruling. The later rulers Titus and Nerva were his friends and confidants.
About the despots of the time he was never silent, as he deemed it his duty to speak against oppression wherever he found it. In the reign of Nero he was charged with high treason, but when the charges were brought before him, they mysteriously disappeared from the parchment as it was unrolled. When Nero expelled the philosophers from Rome in 66 AD (the year of St Peter's martyrdom), Apollonius left and traveled to Spain. Damis implies that he conferred there with certain activists who later led the revolt against Nero.
Under the reign of Domitian he bravely entered a hostile Rome to defend a friend charged with treason. There he was seized and imprisoned in fetters. When a distraught Damis visited him, the teacher told him not to worry and easily removed his legs from the chains. He spent his days in prison giving hope to his fellow captives, teaching the real meaning of freedom -- the inner freedom of God's kingdom.
It had been 38 years since he visited India. His hair was gray, his face was lined, but his beauty and bearing was as attractive in age as it had been in youth. As he stood in court before all the great men of Rome, he mesmerized the crowd and calmly answered the charges against him. Domitian, who was both judge and jury, seemed entranced and confused. In a short time Apollonius was acquitted, and to the astonishment of all, disappeared from the tribunal. On the same day he was with Damis in Puteoli, a three-day journey from Rome. News of his freedom spread through the land. Few had thought that he could escape alive.
The last years of his public life were spent traveling and teaching, with Damis by his side. When he finally departed from his friend, he did so obscurely, sending him to Rome with a message for the Emperor. Damis never forgot his parting words: "Damis, whenever you think on high matters in solitary meditation, you will see me."Rumors regarding Apollonius' death abounded, although his body was never found.
History views Apollonius
Throughout the Graeco-Roman world, Apollonius was accepted as the most brilliant philosopher of the 1st century. After his disappearance, temples were erected in his honor. The Emperor Adrian made a collection of his letters. The books he wrote -- on astrology, philosophy, the life of Pythagoras -- were preserved in the great libraries of the day.
Early in the 3rd century Julia Domna, the wife of the Emperor Septimus Severus, procured the notebooks of Damis. She commissioned Philostratus, a philosopher of the time, to write a biography. This book is the only account of the teacher's life that has survived the destructions of time. It lovingly honors his place in history and describes the homage accorded him in the lands of his ministry.
By the 4th century, however, the view of Apollonius as a worker of miracles became a matter of acrimonious debate. Christianity had become an established religion and the Church Fathers had begun to accord Jesus status as "the only Son of God". Neither reincarnation nor the miracles of Apollonius had any place in their philosophy. Hereafter the theologians posited Apollonius against Jesus. They called him a charlatan, a black magician, and the anti-Christ, as if two holy ones could not walk the earth in the same era.
In more recent times the dispute continues. Most modern translators of Philostratus take a cynical view, supplementing the text with abundant footnotes ridiculing the biographer's descriptions of miraculous events. Apollonius of Tyana by G.R.S. Mead (Helena Blavatsky's personal secretary) is the only recent work that is wholly favorable to the Tyanean.
Sources: Mead, G.R.S: Apollonius of Tyana; Berwick, Edward: The Life of Apollonius of Tyana; Priaulx, Osmond De Beauvoir: The Indian Travels of Apollonius of Tyana.
Appolonius of Tyana
from "On the Eastern Crossroads"
THE story preserved of the life of Apollonius contains the tale of his visit to the North of India. A precisely detailed description is given of the cities, the sites and the people; but the significance of his visit is completely overlooked.
Truly, Apollonius of Tyana was known as a lover of distant travel. But this little explains his journeys. While still a young man he heard of the existence and the Dwelling of the Brotherhood, from one who knew and collected strange tales. He paid little regard to it. But later when he knew more and had discerned more, he recalled it and in the depths of his spirit decided to visit the North of India. He had a friend, a great scientist, who had received many degrees of initiation. And to him, Apollonius turned for advice. The old man became pensive and promised to obtain information. And thus, after one yearthe reply came. The old man addressed Apollonius:
"My friend, happiness is truly with you. They write to me that you may prepare for your journey. In Kashmir you shall meet my friend. I deem he can give you necessary directions. Thus, prepare for your journey."
The journey of Apollonius was long. He encountered numerous people upon his way. One of those whom he met, as though surmising Apollonius' intention, said, "I can be useful to you. He to Whom you journey is known to Me. I beg you to use my house when you shall reach ancient Gandhara." And the stranger gave Apollonius a casket.
Apollonius never learned the name of the stranger. Reaching Taksila, Apollonius found the dwelling of the stranger, and approaching its doors knocked with the hammer. The door opened and a young Hindu invited Apollonius to enter. Only then did Apollonius recall that the name of the host was unknown to him. The doorkeeper evidently awaited. In order to explain his arrival, Apollonius showed him the casket. The doorkeeper made a gesture and let Apollonius into a room where stood a table and two arm-chairs. Shortly the door opened and into the room entered a tall man, dressed in a kaftan with the insignia of a cavalry commander. Calling himself brother to the host, and as if knowing the purpose of Apollonius' visit, he said, "My people shall accompany you to-morrow."
In the morning, in the courtyard, Apollonius saw several warriors and horses. They set out on their journey hurrying towards the northern mountains. There the warriors left Apollonius.
IN the biography of Apollonius the tale of his passing is mutilated. But there remains the evidence of his pupil, Callicratus, concerning the last journey of the Teacher.
Apollonius began to hear voices bidding him return to those very shores where he had once been, to the great enrichment of his spirit. Taking with him his pupil Callicratus, the Teacher, without revealing the goal of his journey, set sail at once. As they approached the Cave where the Great Teacher bestowed initiation upon the Arhats, a tall old man came forth to meet them. Long he conversed with Apollonius. Callicratus heard only the final word of the old man, "If thou hast decided to accept the chalice of Apostolate of the Teaching, do not delay."
When the old man disappeared into the recesses of the cave, Apollonius bid Callicratus hurriedly gather much of the fragrant wood and heap it up as a couch in the cave. He also indicated to Callicratus that when he would hear a voice issuing from the vault of the cave, to ignite the wood, without glancing back; then to hasten to the shores of Greece, forgetting what had occurred.
Thereupon the Teacher sank into seeming sleep. Callicratus sat motionless tending the fire, until late into the night, when high beneath the vault of the cave the greatly reverberant voice of the Teacher rang out:
"And so I have not died, but I go to accept the chalice of Apostolate."
Thereupon Callicratus fulfilled all as he was bidden; and he bade them lay this testimony with him into the grave.
from Mystics and Seers of All Ages by Reginald Merton
The Youth of Apollonius
The voice which had one night cried to the ship's captain, "Pan, great Pan is dead!" still echoed over the Tyrrhenian sea; the three magi of Chaldma had hardly climbed their towers after their journey to Bethlehem -- when Apollonius was born in the little town of Tyana in what is now Turkey.
According to legend, great wonders marked his birth. The least remarkable, though still interesting because it is quite credible, seems to be worthy of being set down here. Just before he was born, his mother was walking in a meadow; she lay down on the grass and went to sleep. Some wild swans, at the end of a long flight, approached her and by their cries and the beating of their wings awakened her so suddenly that the infant Apollonius was born right there at the moment and before his time. Possibly -- for there is a relation between the birth of certain persons and the life which surrounds them -- these swans had foreseen and marked by their presence the fact that on that day was to be born a being whose soul would be as white as their own plumage and who, like them would be a glorious wanderer.
Apollonius, exceptionally, received the gift of physical beauty. Sometimes it seems as if men with the seal of the spirit are apt to be nearsighted, disproportioned, deformed. It is as though their inner fire causes irregularities in their physical bodies. And their careers are accompanied by vague murmurings to the effect that they have followed the barren path of thought only because the path of pleasure was closed to them. But there was nothing of that sort said of this favored among the children of Greece. And the renown of his beauty and intelligence grew so great that the words, "Whither do you hurry? Are you on your way to see the young man?" became proverbial in the province of Cappadocia where he grew up.
Another unusual gift was that of a great fortune. His father was one of the richest men in the province, so that his childhood was spent surrounded by luxury. He lacked nothing, and from his early acquaintances, Apollonius retained a leaning towards the aristocratic, a foible for greatness that impelled him, on his travels, to hasten, before doing anything else, to visit the monarch of the country in which he happened to be, and, later at Rome, to become the counselor of the emperors.
When he was fourteen, his father sent him to Tarsus to finish his education. Tarsus, as well as being a town of study was also a town of pleasure, and life there was soft and luxurious for a rich young man. On the banks of the Cydnus River, in an avenue bordered with orange trees, students of philosophy discussed Pythagoras and Plato with young women in colored tunics slashed to the hip, wearing Egyptian high triangular combs in their hair. The climate was hot, morals free, love easy. But the young Apollonius was not carried away by any of this. He showed at Tarsus a precocious puritanism from which he never deviated subsequently. In his opinion, the wine flowed in too great abundance, wine that veils the clarity of thought and hinders the soaring of the spirit. Perhaps the young man was disturbed one evening by a face that was too beautiful and thought that if he once allowed himself to lie in a woman's lap and loosen the golden clasp of a silken tunic, he would be tempted to the end of his days to repeat the experience.
So, by his fourteenth year Apollonius was probably aware of the existence of the two different paths and weighed up all the riches of the mind, the time, the living energy, that are lost to love. He must have learned the inverse relation that exists between the gift of clairvoyance and the act of love. And no doubt also, he did not feel the need for enriching the mind through the heart. He resolved to remain chaste, and he seems to have kept his resolution throughout his life. Men of austere virtue -- if, indeed, the absence of attraction by women can be called virtue -- often find no difficulty in practicing this virtue because they lack the fires that burn in other men.
Of what possibilities of knowledge are those men deprived who at the outset of their lives adopt a rule of chastity? Buddha married the beautiful Yasodhara and loved her tenderly. He even had other wives, in accordance with the custom of his country. Confucius was married to the obedient Ki Koo, and Socrates had two wives, in accordance with the laws of Athens, the charming Myrto and the bad-tempered Xanthippe. Plato made no profession of chastity, and Pythagoras did not include it among the essential rules of his school; for tradition relates that he was married to Theano and that he even laid down a series of precepts for conjugal life. So that it was his own prudence, his own extreme regard for spiritual safety, that impelled the young man of Tyana to keep his virginity, a condition that was exacted only from vestals and Pythian priestesses in his time.
The Great Healer
He took up his quarters at Aegae with his Epicurean master Euxenes. Aegae possessed a temple of Asclepius, the priests of which were philosophers and doctors of the Pythagorean school. People came from all over Greece, Syria, and even Alexandria to consult them. There were pilgrimages, wholesale healings, an atmosphere of psychical phenomena and miracles prevailed. The priests of Aegae healed by the laying on of hands and by the application of the power of thought, which was a science with them. They practiced magic, studied the art of the interpretation of dreams, as well as the more subtle art of inducing them and extracting their prophetic element. They were the heirs of an ancient knowledge, of which the teaching was oral, which came from the old Orphic mysteries, and the secret of which had to be jealously guarded by the disciple who received it.
The school of Pythagoras formed at that time a secret community with several stages of initiation. The members recognized one another by certain signs and used a symbolical language in order that the doctrine might remain unintelligible to the profane. Music, geometry, and astronomy were the sciences recommended by the Pythagoreans as best adapted to prepare the soul for the reception of suprasensory ideas. They taught detachment from material things, the doctrine of the transmigration of souls through successive human bodies, the development of spiritual faculties through courage, temperance, and fidelity to friendship. They discovered the relation of numbers to the phenomena of the universe, and they communicated with the souls of the dead and the spirits of Nature by means of ceremonies and incantations. The aim of their teachings was the enlargement and the purification of the inner man, his spiritual realization.
Apollonius remained in the temple of Asclepius, where he showed an astonishing gift for healing and clairvoyance, as well as amazing eagerness to acquire the secret knowledge. He let his hair grow, abstained from the flesh of animals and from wine, and walked barefoot, clad only in linen clothes, giving up all that were made of wool. However great a man may be, he does not disdain to dress his wisdom in the uniform of a wise man. Euxenes tried in vain to deflect him into more moderate paths. In his opinion true, wisdom was not so exacting a master. It might be reconciled with all the pleasures of life.
Euxenes was one of those lean, insatiable hedonists, of whom the East produces so many, and for whom intellectual speculations were almost physical pleasures, of the same order as the choice of wine or women. He distrusted miracles, and what he most admired in Plato was the fact that the immortality of the soul had been discussed with the flowers and exquisite food at Agathon's banquet. Apollonius bore Euxenes no ill-will for being so unlike the perfect man who was his ideal. He bought him a villa surrounded by a garden outside Aegae and gave him the money he required for his courtesans, his suppers, and his poor friends.
Apollonius then imposed on himself the four years' silence that was necessary to obtain the final Hermetic initiation. He became very celebrated. This celebrity grew uninterruptedly, a fact which he observed without displeasure. He made predictions that came true, quelled a rebellion by his mere presence, resuscitated a girl whose funeral passed him. But these were only recreations. Like all who passionately seek truth, he went back to its sources, insisted on knowing the origin of the divine waters of which he drank. Pythagoras traveled to Babylon and Egypt. But, according to a tradition preserved in all the temples, it was in India that he received the final word of wisdom; it was from India that he brought the message that was to transform the men of Greece. Since then centuries had passed, bringing with them deep, regular waves of human ignorance. The message has to be continually repeated. Apollonius felt that he was invested with the mission of setting off to seek reinterpret the ancient wisdom for his generation, find the new words and bring them back.
He had no doubt been very much affected by the stories with which the Greeks were then occupied concerning the Buddhist priest Zarmaros of Bargosa. Some years before the birth of Apollonius, Zarmaros had come to Athens with an Indian embassy bringing presents for the Emperor Augustus. He had been initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries, and then, as he was very old, he gave out that it was time for him to die, had a funeral pyre erected in a public square, and mounted it in the presence of the astonished Athenians.
The Most Traveled Man in Ancient Times
The stories accompanying the death of Zarmaros impelled Apollonius to see the country in which lived the wise men who had such a contempt for death. He made preparations to travel alone and on foot. The journey would be long and difficult, though less difficult than might be supposed. For in those days wise men and men of religion recognized a mutual kinship and formed secret communities in which the traveler found assistance and shelter from stage to stage. Moreover, Apollonius knew where he was going. He took the route of Pythagoras, whose itinerary chance or the benevolence of a hidden power enabled him to discover.
Some distance from Antioch, while visiting, as his custom was, the ancient places that were sacred to the gods, he entered the half-abandoned temple of Daphnaean Apollo. He was charmed by the solitary beauty of the spot, the melancholy of the spring and the circle of very tall cypresses surrounding the temple. There was no one there but a half-peasant priest, who seemed somewhat crazy but in whom there still lived, like a forgotten lamp, the consciousness that he had to preserve a religious secret. When the priest returned from tilling his land, he found Apollonius among his cypresses. He offered him hospitality for the night, which Apollonius accepted in order to be in the holy place next day before sunrise. For he thought that to commune with the gods, to receive their warnings and advice, the most propitious hour was that which precedes the birth of day. He was at prayer next day when the priest brought him the temple treasure, which had been preserved through tradition, handed down from father to son.
This sacred treasure consisted of a few thin sheets of copper on which were cut figures and diagrams. The crazy priest had jealously preserved them till that moment, but in Apollonius he recognized the man worthy to receive the treasure which to him was incomprehensible.
By the light of the rising sun, the Pythagorean deciphered on the copper sheets the record of his master's journey, an indication of the deserts and the high mountains to be crossed before he reached the river in which elephants disport themselves and on the banks of which grow apples as blue as the calyx of the hyacinth. He saw before him a description of the exact spot which he had to reach, of the monastery among the ten thousand monasteries in India that was the abode of the men who know Truth. Apollonius was to be the last Western emissary for centuries. After him the door was shut. Thenceforward it was to be possible to create light only from the almost vanished fragments of the ancient wisdom. Darkness was about to fall for centuries on the Christian world.
Apollonius had just reached the little town of Mespila, which had once been Nineveh, "brilliant as the sun on a forest of alms," and was looking at the low houses built in past centuries by Salmanazar's slaves. The curve of a half-buried cupola emerged from the sand. Near by was the statue of an unknown goddess with two horns on her forehead, and among the broken mosaics a man was sitting. It was a youth named Damis, who from that moment was to become his life's companion. By virtue of some mysterious affinity, a dog which you meet casually in the street turns, attaches itself obstinately to you and shows inexplicable faithfulness. Damis rose to his feet, saluted the man who was thenceforward to be his master and was accepted by him as a guide to take him to Babylon.
Darius knew the way there perfectly, and he boasted, too, of knowing the languages spoken in the countries through which they would have to pass. Apollonius smiled and replied that he knew all the languages spoken by men and understood their silence as well. Damis was to realize a little later that Apollonius also possessed knowledge of the language of birds, and could read the great characters, dark against the blue of the sky, formed by the trajectory of their flight. But the guide was to act as guide for the terrestrial journey only; in their spiritual journey it was he who was to be guided.
Damis was an ordinary man in quest of his fate, whatever that might be. If a troupe of travelling actors had happened to pass by, he might have taken service with them as a dancer. But it was a wise man whom he met, and he dedicated himself to wisdom. Wisdom, however, never took much account of him. He did not penetrate below the surface of the mysteries with which he came into contact. Possibly because Apollonius always left him outside the door of the temples; or else because his love of the miraculous prevented him understanding truth.
The two travelers saw the glistening silver-blue domes of Babylon; they passed through its walls, spoke with the magi and set out on their journey again. They climbed mountains such as they had never seen before. The summits were veiled in clouds, but Apollonius remained unaffected by the gradual unfolding of their snowy immensities. "When the soul is without blemish," he said, " it can rise far above the highest mountains." Next they crossed the Indus and passed through countries whose coinage was of yellow and black copper and whose kings were clothed in white and despised ostentation. One evening, on a lonely river bank, they came on a brass stele inscribed with the words, "Here Alexander the Great halted."
And when they had for many days followed the course of the Ganges, when they had climbed more hills and mountains, and met the single-homed wild ass, the fish with a blue crest Eke the peacock's, and the insect from whose body inflammable oil is made; when they had avoided the tiger with the precious stone in its skull (they saw it in the middle of a plain, a stone building with the same elevation as the Acropolis at Athens). They were, according to Philostratus' account, eighteen days' march from the Ganges. A strange fog hovered above the place, and on the rocks surrounding it were the imprints of the faces, beards, and bodies of men who appeared to have fallen. From a well with a bottom of red arsenic the sun drew a rainbow.
Apollonius and his companion had the feeling that the path by which they had come had disappeared behind them. They were in a place that was preserved by illusion, in which the countryside shifted its position and moved in order that the traveler might not be able to fix a landmark in it. Apollonius had at last reached the country of the wise men of India, of whom he was later to say: " I have seen men who inhabit the earth, yet do not live on it, who are protected on all sides though they have no means of defense, and who nevertheless possess only what all men possess."
Then a young Indian advanced towards them; on his hand was a ring of gilded bamboo in the form of an anchor. He greeted Apollonius in Greek (for the men whose messenger he was had heard of his arrival) and conducted them to the community of wise men and to their head, Iarchas. For several months Apollonius lived with the men who knew. It was here that he learned the science of the spirit, the capacities hidden in the heart of man and the means of developing them, in order to live as the gods live. It was from Iarchas that he received the mission that was to send him wandering all his life long among the temples of the Mediterranean countries, for the purpose of dematerializing religion and restoring its former purity. It was here that he learned to pronounce the ineffable name of God, the secret of which confers on its possessor supreme power over men and the capacity of dominion over invisible beings.
When he left his Indian hosts, Apollonius had the certain knowledge that he would be able to remain in communication with them. "I came to you by land," he said; "and you have opened to me not only the way of the sea but, through your wisdom, the way to heaven. All these things I will bring back to the Greeks, and if I have not drunk in vain of the cup of Tantalus I shall continue to speak with you as though you were present."
The wise men, on the threshold of their valley of meditation, gave them white camels on which to cross India. They returned by the Red Sea, in which the Great Bear is not reflected and where at midday men cast no shadow on the deck of their ship. They saw the country of the Orites, where the rivers abound with copper ore; Stobera, the city of the Ichthyophagi ; and the port of Balara, surrounded with myrtle and laurel, where are found shell fish with white shells and a pearl in the place of the heart.
Apollonius returned from India charged with a task of the magical order, which, within the knowledge of man, he was to be the only person to accomplish. It is possible that Pythagoras before him had been invested with the same mission, which he discharged during his travels. But that we shall never know.
Iarchas had shown Apollonius, in a cell of his monastery, a young shining-eyed ascetic, whose intellectual faculties were more extraordinary than those of any of the other wise men in the community but who nevertheless was unable to attain a state of serene meditation. Sometimes the genius even cursed his intelligence and declared it useless. The man suffered from perpetual restlessness, which could not be allayed. Apollonius had inquired the identity of this ascetic and the reason for his sufferings. "He suffers from an injustice done him in a previous life," was Iarchas' answer, "and is possessed by the spirit of Palamedes. Palamedes was the greatest and the wisest of the Greeks. His name is forgotten now and his tomb long abandoned, and Homer makes no mention of him in his history of the Trojan War.
Apollonius undertook to repair the injustice Fate had done to the spirit of Palamedes, though he only acted according to the instructions he had received from the wisemen. He had learned from Iarchas the art of imprisoning in objects spiritual influences that had the power to act at a distance and across time. In certain places, preferably sanctuaries which already contained magnetic influences of religious origin, he was to lay talismans intended to perpetuate the active force which had been enclosed in them. Similarly, in ancient tombs or sacred chambers he would find talismans that had been laid there by former messengers of the spirit.
The tombs of heroes long retain in their stones, in the leaves of surrounding trees, in their solitary atmosphere, the ideal of the man who has become dust. That is the reason why pilgrims who cross the earth in fulfillment of a vow and prostrate themselves before the monument of some revered person, always bring back in their empty hands immaterial riches which they alone can see. A little later Christianity was to revive these practices of ancient magic and extend their use enormously with the worship of the saints and the adoration of relies. But Christianity never found out the secret of Apollonius' wisdom because it turned its back on him.
Apollonius' first thought after reaching Smyrna was to go to Troy. His travels in India had increased his fame, and many disciples accompanied him. They embarked with him on a ship which carried them to the coast of Ionia opposite Lesbos, not far from the little port of Methymna. They arrived at sunset in a deserted bay, and Apollonius requested to be left alone on shore in order that he might meditate in the hour before dawn, when the thoughts of the spirits of the dead and of higher powers reach men pure enough to receive them. It was in this place that Palamedes lay buried.
Palamedes, of whose very name Homer was unaware, was a poet and the scholar who had been the victim of Ulysses, the man of action. Palamedes had invented different methods of calculation, fire-signals, and the game of chess, and was the most inventive of all the Greeks, but he had been stoned before the walls of Troy through a false accusation of treason brought by Ulysses. The clever Palamedes had detected Ulysses' feigned madness, and Ulysses, out of revenge, forged a letter from Priam, King of Troy, and hid it in Palamedes' tent, whereupon Palamedes was stoned to death for treason. That this great man's creative intelligence should have gone unappreciated; that the winged gifts of this inventor of science and beauty should have been stifled by jealousy -- and no reparation made after his death -- was a human travesty that it was necessary to set right, a blot on the history of mankind that would become greater as men's culture progressed, and which it was the duty of a wise man's hand to wipe out.
At dawn Apollonius indicated the spot near the sea where they were to dig, and a statue of Palamedes, a cubit high, was found. It was set up in its former position, in which Philostratus, two centuries later, bears witness that he saw it. The statue of the unappreciated hero standing opposite the sea was for long a proof to travelers interested in the memorials of primitive Greece that sooner or later justice is done to those who have lit the first lamps of enlightenment. And perhaps in a cell in the abode of wise men, a taciturn ascetic felt an unfamiliar consolation fall on him like a ray of, the Ionian sun.
Where did Apollonius, during his travels throughout the world, lay the talismans whose mystical radiations were to ensure man's spirituality? Is it to him that the impression is to be ascribed that one feels at Paestum (where he stayed), before the now deserted Temple of Neptune? The man who breathes in its silence, touches its Pentelican marble, even now finds himself compelled to look within himself, where, in the depths of his heart, he catches a glimpse of another deserted temple, set before a sea that is not so definite as the Mediterranean. It is the same with the Lerin Islands, where Apollonius stayed because he thought that that favored spot off the Gallic coast was to become a center of future civilization. Here, soon after his visit, was founded the monastery of Saint-Honorat, which has endured through the centuries to this day.
The murmur of the cypresses along the grand avenue at Saint-Honorat is different from elsewhere, the color of the stones seem luminescent; and if you lean over the well you feel the vibration of the eternal verities of life. Is this the result of the magic of Apollonius? All that can be said is that he applied, or tried to apply, a method the transcendence of which eludes us today.
The ostensible and most easily intelligible aim that Apollonius pursued was that of unifying creeds, explaining symbols, showing the spirit behind the images of the gods of paganism, suppressing sacrifice and external forms, in order that all worship might participate in the Hermetic union with divinity. For this purpose, he went to all the holy places, in Syria, Egypt, Spain; he even reached the rock of Gades, which later was to become Cadiz, and was, according to Pliny, the last part of the continent that escaped the catastrophe of Atlantis.
The Miracles of Apollonius
Everywhere Apollonius received almost divine honors and legends about him grew up everywhere. His capacity for clairvoyance enabled him to make predictions that were verified by events and which had the effect of increasing his fame. He had no difficulty in escaping Nero's persecution of philosophers, and his admirers said that when confronted with the tribunal that was to try him, he was able, through his Hermetic art, to erase the writing on the document on which his indictment was written. He acted as counselor to Vespasian. He recognized the real nature of a possessed woman, who, in the form of a beautiful girl, incited his disciple Menippus to pleasure in order to drink his blood. He recognized also the spirit of a recently dead and much-mourned king in a tame lion which was herbivorous, and very gentle and affectionate. He restored the true idea of love to a rich madman, who wished solemnly to marry a statue. He exorcised a lecherous demon that caused an inhabitant of Corcyra to attack all women he met. He healed a man who had just been bitten by a mad dog, but he pursued the mad dog a long way in order to heal it, too, by plunging it into a river, which everyone saw as a sign of exceptional kindness of heart.
Imprisoned by the evil Emperor Domitian but unexplainably acquitted by the court which tried him, Apollonius disappeared in front of everyone in the court, possibly by using some trick of collective suggestion. Once, when in a garden in Ephesus, Apollonius saw by clairvoyance the murder of Domitian in Rome. "Strike the tyrant, strike him!" he cried joyfully, as though to encourage the distant murderer. While such an act shows that he did not profess the forgiveness of all offences, it also demonstrates his belief that he could will reality itself to change. Certainly, the miracles of Apollonius were so numerous that some of them must have been done for the purpose of dazzling his followers or proving the reality of the spiritual realm to disbelievers. It seems as if he made use of knowledge of natural laws that were still unknown to his contemporaries.
The Death of Apollonius
At last, after a thousand natural miracles, so easily accomplished, when he was more than eighty years old, he accomplished the "miracle" of his own death. It was indeed a great miracle, for everyone believed him immortal and that he would never die. But perhaps after all, this miracle was not accomplished, for at the end of his life, simply disappeared without leaving a trace. The phenomenon of his disappearance on his deathbed seems to have been particularly pleasing to him. He did not fail to contrive at the moment of his death, the longest disappearing act of all. Some say that one evening he left his house in Ephesus, where he lived with two servants, and never entered it again. Others assert that the disappearance of his physical body took place in a temple of Dictynna, where he was spending a night in meditation. No one has ever heard of the tomb of Apollonius, just as no one knows where Pythagoras died. Several Roman Emperors who admired Apollonius, notably Caracalla, who put up a temple to him, investigated the matter in vain.
It should be noted that eleven centuries later there lived in Spain an Arab philosopher named Artephius, who claimed to be Apollonius of Tyana. This Artephius lived in Granada and Cadiz, where Apollonius had stayed for a long time. He stood in very high reputation among the Hermetic philosophers of his day, who came from the most distant countries in order to consult him. Like Apollonius, he professed the Hermetic vision and Pythagorean philosophy and studied the art of compounding talismans and divination by the characters of the planets and the song of birds. He had been able, he insisted, to prolong his life in a miraculous way by means of his knowledge of the Philosopher's Stone.
The Backlash Against Him
The world, for the spiritual development of which he worked so enthusiastically, has not done Apollonius full justice. He was surrounded with hatred as well as with admiration. He made too many prophecies, even though they were precisely realized, performed too many marvelous tricks. The mediocre minds that create the reputations of great men insist that virtue shall be muffled in tedium and that it shall not be illumined by anything of the marvelous. If a man lacks the audacity or has too much sincerity to present himself as a god, he must be content to remain within the limits of honest humanity. If the philosophers glorified Apollonius, the Christian world contrasted him with his contemporary, Jesus. While the ecclesiastical historians for centuries, even down to our own times, have made his name a synonym for charlatan and trickster -- with such a tenacity that should suffice to prove his greatness of soul!
Renan, the last of these ecclesiastical historians, after calling him " a sort of Christ of paganism," retracts his words and says: "If Apollonius had been sincere, we should know him through Pliny, Suetonius, or Aulus Gellius, as we know Euphrates, Musonius and other philosophers." But Renan forgets that neither Pliny nor Suetonius nor Aulus Gellius speaks of Jesus, whom, for all that, he regards as a sincere man. Apollonius never entered a temple without saying this prayer: "Grant, 0h gods, that I may have little and feel the need of nothing." For contempt of riches is a wonderful touchstone of man's sincerity and virtue.
So, Apollonius was a sincere man who taught the existence of One Mind and the immortality of the soul, but he taught it with caution (in which he resembled Buddha), saying that it was useless to discuss too far this question and that of man's destiny after death, because he considered that that part of the truth which was known to him was too deceptive for those who had not experienced higher truths directly. "When the body is exhausted," he said, "the soul soars in ethereal space, full of contempt for the harsh, unhappy slavery it has suffered. But what are these things to you? You will know them when you are no more."
For him wisdom was "a sort of permanent state of inspiration." To attain that state, he prescribed chastity, a diet of herbs and fruit, and clothes as pure as the body and soul. Apollonius was a sincere man who labored to separate the spiritual essence of his being and unite it with the divine spirit. He ascribed an important role in this process to the imagination, using it as a path to self-development. He discerned in the smile on the face of a statue, the spirit that lies behind form. He regarded material things, the contour of a landscape, the color of rivers and of stars, the multiform earth, as the symbols of another, purer world, of which they were but the reflections.
"I shall continue to speak with you as though you were present," Apollonius had said as he left his Indian masters. Was it their words that he heard at a distance or was it by divine inspiration that he received his great influx of wisdom? Even in Domitian's darkest dungeon, there was a moment when a certain fluidity in the atmosphere indicated the light of a mysterious inner dawn. The world grew more silent, the walls became thinner, and an inner voice, wise beyond time and matter, perhaps spoke to him thus:
"The greatest are those who never find their place, in times that are unpropitious to them. Nothing of the good that a man has done, and, more particularly, nothing of the good that he has thought, is lost, even if he is imprisoned or crucified for that good. But be not as the Hindu ascetic, who was unable to forget injustice. Because the words of the master Jesus will burn like a living flame deep into the hearts of Western humanity, you will be cursed and forgotten. You will be contrasted with him, and for centuries, pious men will speak of you as a juggler or a mountebank. But if you rise to the region where neither justice nor injustice exists, you will know that this is a matter of small importance. It will be necessary for you to share also Jesus' own sorrow, which is very great, for he has been a thousand times more misunderstood than you, a thousand times worse betrayed. Make ready to approach God on the day that is appointed in the Great Book without lettering. Then perhaps you will be crowned with the glory that you so ardently desired."